AdHoc & 4AD Present
52-19 Flushing Ave
Maspeth, NY, 10003
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is 16 and over
Watch & Listen
“What should I do?” That’s the question Merrill Garbus asks herself halfway through “ABC 123,” the stunning centerpiece of the new Tune-Yards album, I can feel you creep into my private life.
In 2014, Tune-Yards released Nikki Nack, which NPR called “dazzingly imaginative,” while the NME hailed it as “easily Tune-Yards’ finest work,” and New York Magazine dubbed it “possibly the catchiest record of the year.” The album earned Tune-Yards performances on The Tonight Show and Conan in the U.S. and Later… With Jools Holland in the U.K., along with sold-out international headline shows, support slots with Arcade Fire, The National, and Death Cab For Cutie among others, and festival performances everywhere from Pitchfork to End Of The Road. The album followed her similarly acclaimed 2009 debut, BiRd-BrAiNs, called “ingenious and often irresistible” by the New York Times, and their 2011 sophomore release, w h o k i l l, which landed on nearly every major outlet’s Best Of list and topped the Village Voice’s prestigious Pazz & Jop poll as critics’ favorite of the year.
The new album is an unflinching examination of modern identity, intricately rendered in the manically infectious way that only Tune-Yards can. Drawing on a recent foray into DJing and inspired in part by C.L.A.W. (Collaborative Legions of Artful Womxn), her radio show highlighting female-identifying producers, I can feel you creep into my private life finds the band flirting with the dancefloor more than ever before, as four on the floor kickdrum underpins wild polyrhythms and slinky bass grooves. The atypical arrangements seem to defy gravity, bursting like fireworks one moment and retreating inwards the next as the band blends pop, hip-hop, soul, folk, rock, 80’s house, African, and Caribbean music.
While the album was written prior to the 2016 presidential election, it’s not difficult to hear hints of political anxiety throughout the record. On album opener “Heart Attack,” elements of vintage soul crash into frenetic drum machines as Garbus frets over the unraveling of progress, and the swirling “Coast To Coast” imagines a New York swallowed by rising seas.
In addition to being the band’s most pointed work to date, I can feel you creep into my private life is also the most fundamentally collaborative, with Garbus' long-time partner Nate Brenner co-producing, heavily influencing not just his basslines but also the shape of the songs themselves.
“This album is the most writing that Nate and I have ever done together,” says Garbus. “The first iterations of Tune-Yards were just me by myself, but this really feels like a true collaboration between us, and it’s the first record where Nate is listed as a producer. These songs are the result of what we’re each bringing to the table.”
If there’s an underlying thesis to I can feel you creep into my private life, it’s that uncomfortable questions often come with uncomfortable answers. Garbus has always been known for pushing the limits of pop musically, but here she tests just how much weight the genre can bear lyrically, too, challenging herself to look inwards rather than simply point fingers and assign blame. It’s a radical act of accountability, a candid self-examination delivered with ecstatic energy that calls on the audience to take their own long hard looks in the mirror. In the piercing silence after the record stops spinning, only one question remains: What should I do?
This year marks a significant anniversary for U.S. Girls, the protean musical enterprise of multi-disciplinary artist, Meg Remy. 10 years ago Remy first used a 4-track recorder and a microphone to self-produce a series of spontaneous, starkly musical, ‘instant expressions’. These collisions of static, clang and sung melody seem in retrospect like a uniquely American display of minimalism, an unmistakably feminine counterbalance to Nebraska or Rev & Vega’s early sonic confrontations. In contrast, her latest work for 4AD and Royal Mountain Records, In A Poem Unlimited, Remy’s 6th album and 2nd LP for the label, was painstakingly crafted in multiple studios by a creative cast of 20+ collaborators. Remy traverses an immediate and increasingly politicized vision over the course of this decade of work. And while U.S. Girls, denoting the plural, is no longer a misnomer, In A Poem Unlimited may be Remy’s most individually distilled protest to date.
Opening with a dark, conga-infused drum break, lead-off track ‘Velvet For Sale’ establishes a moody, distinctly mysterious feel. If Half Free (Remy’s 2015 4AD offering) trafficked in dusty, sample-based textures, Poem represents an inversion of that instrumental formula; the non-sampled rhythms are themselves eminently sample-able. The newfound grooviness speaks to a central element of the new album’s collaborative spirit. All tracks save for two were performed by The Cosmic Range, an accomplished instrumental collective from Toronto, Remy’s adoptive hometown. Assembled by Matthew Dunn in 2014, The Cosmic Range is composed of some of Canada’s most accomplished improvisers, and includes longtime U.S. Girls producer / foil Maximilian ‘Twig’ Turnbull. The Range--whose eclectic combination of improvised psych, jazz, and propulsive dance music was first recorded on their 2016 New Latitudes debut (Idée Fixe)--is put to work here on a song cycle that is typically diverse for a U.S. Girls album. Remy is not content merely to establish a new sonic palette on successive albums. Instead she approaches each song as its own encapsulation, with the effect that her oeuvre is essentially genre-agnostic. On Poem, the buffet of sounds comprises a dizzying variety: disco, employed as a protest vernacular (‘Mad As Hell’), as well as an unrelenting assault (‘Time’); Remy’s beat-driven impulse, extended via The Cosmic Range’s vamping on hip hop producer Onakabazien’s produced loops (‘Incidental Boogie’ & ‘Pearly Gates’); moody, slow-burning funk, on the Twig co-writes (‘Velvet For Sale’ & ‘L-Over’); and forming the emotional core of the album, two earnest synth anthems, written in collaboration with D.C. based instrumentalist, Rich Morel (‘Rosebud’ & ‘Poem’).
As hectic as the stylistic detours may sound on paper, Remy and mixer / co-producer Steve Chahley will a consistent aesthetic into being, however multi-dimensional. With a voice as assured and engaged as Remy’s, track to track, one sees that genre-partisanship, in the contemporary music landscape, represents an irrelevantly conservative approach. The artist is intent on liberation both sonically and lyrically.
Poem features dark meditations reflecting charged atmospheres that directly precede and follow acts of violence. Many of the songs are character studies of women grappling with power; how to gain and exert it spiritually, as well as desperate strategies to mitigate its infliction. In ‘Pearly Gates’ a woman ingeniously decides to seduce St. Peter to assure heavenly entrance, to mixed effect, while in ‘Incidental Boogie’, a battered woman muses ironically that her partner’s abuse leaves so little physical evidence she can continue to show up at her job. Almost all of Remy’s lyrics seem to interrogate notions of morality, and the universal consequence of its deferment. As has so long been suggested in the artist’s work, action and inaction both have broad civic consequences. There is no escaping that the personal is entrenched in a political dimension and an acknowledgement of that may be the only liberator.
In an era of heightened turmoil, artists contend with a crossroads decision on cultural content, and how we engage with it as individuals. There is no shortage of media that lends distraction and offers a balm of comforting fantasy. For those, on the other hand, craving a thoughtful and probing inquiry into the iniquity of power, In A Poem Unlimited poses a substantial question; can you dance while you think?